GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — In 2020, teachers and other educators had to quickly learn how to teach from in-person to virtual.
Now, as many schools re-enter the school buildings and West Michigan winter weather finally hits, some parents wonder if snow days will still happen. Instead, the district could switch to virtual learning for the day.
However, a handful of West Michigan school districts say that is not the case.
"Snow days are still with us," said Dan Behm, Forest Hills superintendent. "It's not yet another thing that students have lost."
Forest Hills students still had class Tuesday after West Michigan saw a few inches of snow in the morning. However, Behm said when the weather warrants it, they will still have a snow day like previous years.
In the event of a snow day, all students would not have class, including the 15% of students at Forest Hills who have chosen an entirely virtual model of teaching this year.
The State of Michigan gives districts six forgivable days a school year, often used for snow days.
Of course, each district makes its own rules for determining a snow day. For Coopersville Area Schools, students there did have a snow day Tuesday. Its superintendent, Matt Spencer, said while teachers certainly could rise to the challenge of switching to virtual learning for a snow day, it's very challenging. It is not something they plan to do right now.
"It's additional work," said Spencer. "It's a change in planning and it's the sense of changing horses in midstream."
Behm also said a challenge at Forest Hills is equipment. Many of its students borrow virtual learning equipment from the district.
"Those devices are in our schools right now," said Behm. "So to just simply say to kids, 'Oh, you better take it home tonight because it may be a snow day tomorrow,' we haven't gotten into all of those logistical challenges."
Behm also said the tradition of waking up to snow and finding out there is a snow day is a tradition of childhood. However, lessons learned from strides made in virtual learning this school year could one day be put to use in place of snow days.
"If we saw a winter that really started to stack up snow days, we would look at something more to extend our instructional time with all the things we've learned about virtual learning," said Behm. "But for the time being, for the first handful of snow days, it will be a typical snow day, as we've seen in previous years."
Representatives for Grand Rapids Public Schools and Godfrey Lee Public Schools said they have similar approaches to snow days this year and still plan to use them as necessary.
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